A Midterm Election Rundown: Soriano’s Comment, №32

Paulo Ito Street Art — Brazil (2014)

It’s Wednesday morning and there is a knock on the door. “Go away,” you groan. It is too early and you are very hungover. You’ve been on a pretty long bender — grabbing pussy and talking shit — but, today you wake up with one hell of a headache. And that pounding on the door won’t stop. “Alright! Alright!” you yell.
 
You wheeze as you shift your ever-expanding girth off the bed. Straighten your red “Make America Great Again” sleeping cap and try to palm the wrinkles out of your Scrooge Duck underoos, you walk towards the pounding and pull open the door.
 
Shit-smacked, you stand staring at incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, incoming House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam B. Schiff, incoming House Banking Committee Chairman Maxine Waters, and incoming House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings. Pelosi smiles at you and says, “Wake up, motherfucker! Time to party!” No matter what you tweet, your day has just gone to shit.
 
The Democrats won the House of Representative. Congress can’t pass legislation without the House, and, better, the House controls government spending. That means Trump gets no Wall, no permanent battalion of troops on the border, no military parade, no subsidies for “clean coal,” no more unchecked personal spending by Trump or his appointees, and no Space Force. That also means that Trump gets investigations, subpoenas, and a court order to hand over his tax returns. He gets 730 days to fight people powerful enough to ruin his life.

Symone Saub Believe Us (Philadelphia street art, 2018)

You won’t get impeachment and that is fine. “Gasp! Wha-wha-wha? That sellout Pelosi!” Oh, shut up. More like that extremely smart Pelosi. Here’s what impeachment means: A hell of a lot of investigations looking for something to hang on Trump. That something has to be rock solid, not simply based on “I don’t like Cheeto.” Sure, Mueller might have something, but there will be hearings on his findings. Then you have to spend months on impeachment hearings, hearings that the GOP will try to block or postpone. After a year or so, perhaps you get an impeachment vote and send that to the Republican-held Senate? Ha! They aren’t going to try Trump and, if by some miracle they did, they won’t convict.
 
So, you impeach Trump. What does that buy you? The man can’t be shamed. No one around him cares about shame. Trump will wear that impeachment as a badge of honor. Are you sick of “fake news”? Well, say hello to “fake impeachment”! He will hold a rally in some Midwestern afterthought and mock, “Oh I’m impeached” and tear up a piece of paper, throwing bits into the air. His crowd will go crazy. He will recycle that bit every week until the 2020 elections, as he dares the country to make history by being making him the “first” impeached president to win reelection. And, all the self-perceived victims who made sure that the Republicans held the Senate will turnout in 2020 to reelect Trump.
 
So, forget impeachment. Pelosi knows how to grab Trump by the balls and she knows how to twist them to make the man suffer. She will demand investigation after investigation, all targeting the only thing that Trump cares about — Money. Directly or not, she will try to expose every single penny that is or isn’t in Trump’s pockets. We’ve seen Trump scared a few times — last time when Cohen and Manafort flipped — prepare for more. It will be ugly. Very ugly. And when he gets ugly we will need to fight for democracy harder than ever. Trump will not go down without trying to take all of us with him.
 
Nancy Pelosi is the congressperson who represents me. I don’t agree with her politically. I think that San Francisco can do better. However, as House Majority Leader, I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have facing off against Trump right now. Pelosi is a supreme ass-kicker. I know this because I watch her work, but also because the one Democratic official that all Republicans attack is Nancy Pelosi. They go after Pelosi because they are scared of her. They know that she is effective. She just delivered the Dems the House. She does not let her people stray, not one bit. And she can’t be snowed. Now, if she was Chuck Schumer, they wouldn’t bark. They’d see a washed-out, Wall Street pushover and rub their palms. But, not Nancy. Nancy Pelosi is trouble.
 
If libs and lefts want to nail someone let it be Schumer. He might have the money line to Wall Street, but that is all he has. He is a weak leader. He’s let himself be played by Trump several times — the worst being his willingness to trade DACA for the Wall. He attacks Trump with a wiffle ball bat, when he should be swinging a Louisville Slugger. He whines. And, he just lost seats in the goddamn Senate! That alone is reason to jettison the fucker.

Welinoo Street Art — Copenhagen

About the Senate: While the Dems lost more seats than they should have, the odds of them ruling both chambers was pretty slim. There were too many tough seats to defend in races that were very easy to turn national. Trump is no genius but he and his advisors knew that the best way to win in states like North Dakota, Missouri, Montana, Indiana, Texas, West Virginia, Mississippi, Arizona, and Indiana was to make those races national, particularly referendums about Trump. It worked in all but West Virginia. Even the Dem Testor does pull off Montana, the fact that it is razor thin shows that Trump was right. He is popular in those states. He can get his fans to fire up their rascals and motor on down to the voting place. In some of those states, the rascal riders were what the Republican Senate candidate needed to win.
 
House races are much more difficult to nationalize. Candidates for the house campaign to tens of thousands of people, not hundreds of thousands or millions. Trump might matter but not as much as money for schools, repairing roads, building bridges, or cleaning up the local toxic waste site. A smart candidate will point to the pool of poisonous goo bubbling up from the football field at Gibby Hayes High and ask why Trump is so concerned about a Mexican caravan and not our kids! as she stares at her Republican opponent who just told the crowd that he’ll be Trump’s #1 man in Washington. Centrist scribes like the Washington Post’s James Hohlmann call this “moderation,” and to James I call bullshit. I’ve heard lefty socialist Dems talk this way. I’ve heard far right Repugs say the same. I’ve heard “moderates” rhapsodize about bipartisanship with the ideological zeal of a Maoist. Bread & butter isn’t a left & right thing. It is just good basic politics.
 
Two House victories I want to single out are those of New York’s Antonia Ocasio-Cortez and Iowa’s Steve King. There should be no surprise about either one. Ocasio-Cortez victory on Tuesday was a formality. For her, the primary was the real race. That she got 78% of the vote last night is impressive, but, against a Republican, my fat ass would have polled 78%. Its great that she’s going to Washington, but let’s not make her a superstar. Let her earn it.
 
Republican white supremacist Steve King was never going to lose his race, though 50/47 should shut him up (it won’t). He was running for reelection in a district that is 95% white and old. Since 1863, 29 politicians have held that seat and 23 of those were Republicans. During most of the 1970s into the 90s, a Dem named Neil Smith held the seat, but he first “won” it through redistricting and had a conservative voting record. In past runs, King won reelection by more than 60%. King winning says nothing about anything except Iowa’s 4th District.
 
It is really important in races like Iowa’s 4th, the governor’s races in Georgia and Florida, and the Texas Senate race to get a bit of distance. Yes, Steve King is the perfect villain for you and me, but not for the people who live in the 4th. We can be as appalled as we want about King’s white supremacist yelps, but our anger will not shape that election. Being disappointed that nazis elected a nazi seems like wasted emotion.
 
On the flipside, Beto O’Rourke is a swell politician and a cool dude, but a win for him was always going to be tough. He was dealing with voter suppression and intimidation (the threat of Border Control officers in Latinx neighborhoods). He got close. He got national exposure. Own that! We don’t know the result of the Georgia governor race yet. If Stacey Abrams wins, it will because she got 70% of a vote in an election in which 20 of those percentage points were flushed down the toilet by her thoroughly corrupt opponent, a man overseeing his own election. Again, Abrams will have outperformed expectations while running a race that was rigged against her. Same with Andrew Gillum. Hell, Gillum wasn’t supposed to win his primary. He did. That he was a strong challenge to Republican rule in Florida was a shocker for everyone but him. He also was going up against a Florida electoral system long corrupted by Republicans. And he came close.

D-NEK Captain Chump: Civil War (Weston-super-Mare, UK)

Oh and about Florida: The fine voters of the Bathsalts State extended the franchise to ex-cons. Two good things there, the idea that when you’ve done your time, you’ve done your time, and letting more people vote. Libs and lefts on the internet seem to think that all these new ex-cons will vote Democrat. This belief shows how deep the notion that Dems are pro-criminal/soft on crime is! It also shows how out of touch libs and lefts are when it comes to cons and ex-cons. 
 
The reals: Prison is not a political place. Yeah, there are prisoners who pick up political talk, but that doesn’t mean that they are political. There are a few reasons why. First and foremost is that the prison system dissuades prisoners from politics, especially anything resembling political activism. Second is that political affiliation is way way way way way way down the list of things prisoners identify with. The number one thing that matters to prisoners? Race. And, third, most prisoners are cynics. They view politics, particularly electoral politics, as part of the system that sent them to prison. For many, a politician is no different than a judge, a district attorney, or a cop.
 
“Well, what about people in prison who shouldn’t be there — they are there on trumped up charges, they were overcharges, they didn’t get a fair trial, or they did something like deal dope or run a gambling operation?” Okay, they got a raw deal, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are political, that they will vote, or that they will vote Democrat. Why should the wrongly convicted be any less cynical then the dude whose in for an encyclopedia of crime?
 
Remember that line about prisoners #1 identity is race? Time to build on that. Not only do prisoners identify primarily as Black, white, Latinx, etc. but they organize around that identity. When politics gets mixed into identity, it doesn’t matter what racial identity influences politics, the politics gets weird. Black prison gang politics can be very anti-authoritarian towards authority figures but authoritarian in practice. Black nationalists are often ultra-capitalist. When white prison gangs go political they tend to the far right, often white supremacist, but, like many Black or Latinx gangs, the white gangs are also ultra-capitalist, as well as ultra-patriotic. And because gangs dictate the social structure of a prison, their attitudes and ideologies trickle down to the general population.
 
Ask yourself this, how many of Florida’s 38% white-identified prisoners will vote for a Black Democrat governor? How many ex-cons will vote for a law and order Democrat like Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, who on her last Late Show appearance mentioned that she was a former District Attorney five times? Or Democratic “hero” Congressman Adam Schiff, who prides himself on having been a tough as hell prosecutor?
 
My point is this: Never assume anything. Just because you think Beto is cool doesn’t mean he will win. You must work your ass off to get him there. Just because Stacey Abrams is great doesn’t mean she will win. You must work your ass off to get her a victory. Just because Antonia Ocasio-Cortez won and seems A-OK, doesn’t mean that she is going to do right. You must work your ass off to make sure that she does. And just because Florida extended to the franchise to ex-cons, doesn’t mean that they will vote, let alone vote the way you want. You must work your ass off to get them to the ballot box.
 
Yesterday was the election and Trump woke up to a nightmare of a House of Representatives. Great! Now we must work to make sure that these wins aren’t just symbolic and that our loses are temporary setbacks. Organize!

Rahmaan Statik Street Art — Chicago (2010)

Piece originally appeared in the November 7, 2018 issue of Soriano’s Comment. Free Subscriptions available here. Become a patron here.